Oh life, you funny creature!
Sometimes you have me feeling oh so inspired and I wriggle about with the delight of being, other times, you have me feeling oh so blue, rather exhausted, irritable and well uninspired.
Immediately I think of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali –I’m a bit of a philosophy nerd.
The Yoga Sutras are verses or ‘threads’, which together construct the ‘manual’ to the Royal path of Yoga (Raja Yoga) written around 300BC.
Simply put, these verses hold knowledge of the path to enlightenment through the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.
Sutra 1.5 “Vrttyah pañcatayyah klistāklistāh” translates to “There are five kinds of mental modifications which are either painful or painless” (1)
Leaving the details of the 5 modifications aside, notice how Patanjali doesn’t say “These modifications are painful or pleasurable” he instead, purposefully leaves out the word pleasurable as he realised that pleasure and pain are opposite ends of the same dualistic spectrum.
If one feels pleasure then one too must feel pain.
He uses the word “aklistāh” which translates to “uncoloured” or “painless” alluding to the space between pain and pleasure. In this space of equanimity one neither allows the mind to fluctuate to the space of “oh so joyful let’s jump around like teenage girls” nor to “I want to crawl into a cave for the next 30 years” Instead we find solace in the space between.
Another way to think about this is as a white canvas. The pleasurable and painful states equate to a painted canvas, interpret, as you will. The painless state is the white untouched canvas. What can we see in a blank canvas?
Many of us (most) may be thinking “but I love the highs in life, I love feeling everything intensely, I love the painted canvas’ “
I hear you loud and clear, I too love the moments where life is just so blissfully unimaginably delicious, but perhaps Patanjali was onto something? The moments where I think back to feeling the most fulfilled or the most at peace have been the moments, which existed between the extremes.
Granted, Patanjali wrote the Sutras for the Sanyasi (spiritual recluse) not for the person immersed in living in this world. So perhaps for us worldly-types it means that we simply begin to have awareness of the height of the highs and the depths of the lows, noticing what the middle feels like, where in our lives we touch this middle equanimous ground.
Maybe we stay in the middle a little longer when we realise that the absence of Joy and the absence of pain may in fact mean the same thing.
Personally I’d love to invite Patanjali over for a cup of tea in my sea-foam polka dot tea cups with the roses inside (because I still have attachment issues and derive slightly too much joy from these teacups) and quiz him on this whole “life” thing.
In the meantime I’ve compiled some art pieces by some of my favourite Australian Artists as a little bit of Inspo and a little bit of JOY for the eyes.
Make sure to click through to their webpages for more eye candy.
(1)Translation of Sutra 1.5 taken from Sri Swami Satchidananda, there are several other translations, which speak of the same principle but in different terms.